Monday, May 05, 2008

Rebel Rock Pt. 2: Ottley! and Pierced Arrows, psychedelic garage pioneers, still making vital music decades later!

After writng about two deserving rockers, Roky Erickson and George Brigman, who still wave their freak flag high decades into their musical odysseys in my last post, its time to give some more credit where it is due. Ottley! and Pierced Arrows are hardly household names but between them they have contributed decades of outstanding tuneage and their garage rock pedigree cannot be denied. What cannot be denied as well, is the fact they still hold true to their rock and roll ethos in the best way when many would flounder and lose their vision. Instead, their sharp, piercing rock and roll testifies to the fact that Pete Townshend DID get old and decades after the start of their careers, THEIR rock and roll will never die. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, and while neither band will never be the next big thing, they certainly ought to be!

Ottley! takes the guitar/drum duo a bit further by adding a female singer and their stripped down rock is at the same time simple and complex, weaving melodic guitar lines, pounding drums and sultry vocals into a fine mess, on fire and on target. They're a DC band who actually live in Frederick, MD and their roots lie in some of the best 60s and 70s punk rock that ever came out of the nation's capital. Their drummer, Bob Berberich, is truly a DC stalwart who has lived and breathed rock since the mid 60s as the drummer for the Hangmen (and even earlier bands) and Nils Lofgren's first two bands, Dolphin and Grin. Seeing Ottley! at the Olde Towne Tavern in Frederick a couple weeks ago and meeting Bob was certainly a gas, as from the very first chords, their thunderous roar kicked around the corpse of rock and roll and brought it back to life. Of course, Bob had a little help from his bandmates, Martha Hull and Marshall Keith, whom some of you might remember from the Slickee Boys. It's really hard to describe the Slickees and their impact on the DC scene to anyone who wasnt there. Their records, outside of a few gems, never seemed to do them justice, but their live shows were a smirling mass of color and energy, not to mention some of the best and most frenzied psychedlic punk one could ever hope to hear. The Slickee Boys almost singelhandedly started the DC punk scene in 1976 which has spawned so many bands and the ink to go with it. When Kim Kane and Marshall Keith started the band, who would have thought their impact would spawn a scene that would go down in history. Their psychedelic sound with Marshall's snaky leads, the strangulated rhythm of Mr Kane's guitar, and Martha's hot sexy vocals defied categorization, and they quickly evolved into a top shelf act. Unfortunately, Martha didnt stick around to get all the glory, and when Mark Noone replaced her, for awhile it looked like the Slickees were gonna break nationally. It never happened; somehow, their Twin/Tone deal just never worked out and both LPs they did for them, just didnt capture their fire and sank without an impact.

Still, the Slickees live show remained the best fun you could have cheap, and I think I was peeled off the floor more than once at those great Slickees/Velvet Monkeys shows I used to go to, and, like many others, may have passed out in front of Baltimore's Congress Hotel at least once as well. Those were the days, and I also will never forget the boat cruise around Baltimore's Inner Harbor, where the Slickees literally had the whole damn boat rockin! But, back to Ottley! Older and wiser, and back with Martha, who just happened to marry Bob along the way, Ottley! is content to stay underground and not tour, playing for themselves and their fans and friends. They do it for fun now, and it shows. Dense, catchy, swirling and totally unassuming, they just kick out the jams for the hell of it, while effortlessly rocking out. Martha, standing about 5 foot four, the last four being hair, belies her small size with a big husky voice still in fine form, and her spunk never sounded better. She belted out "To Sir with Love" while the band pounded and jammed in the best Grand Funk cover tradition and I just melted in my seat! The band breathed fire and Martha did too, mixing old Slickees tunes with a few choice covers and their new tunes, mini-operas and rock and roll anthems, perfect little tunes that have you cravin more. Awesome crunch that never let up for one second! Needless to say, Ottley! put on a great show and when they tore up their final song, the Hangmen's tune the Slickees appropriated, "What a Girl Can't Do", I was in rock and roll nirvana!

While Ottley! bashes out their great tunes content to stay in their local friendly surroundings and just have a great time, Fred Cole of Pierced Arrows, as he always has done, decided to grab the bull by the horns and tour Europe and Australia in support of their debut LP. Of course Fred is no stranger to the psychedelic garage world with his career spanning, by my count, over 43 years at least 7 bands and way too many releases to count. Beginning with the Weeds back in 1965 who later underwent a name change to the Lollipop Shoppe and released the now classic "Just Colour" LP on Uni which contained the garage masterpiece "You Must Be A Witch" among others and continuing thru Zipper, the Rats and Dead Moon, Fred's unique vision was psychedelic, punk and heavy rock and roll filtered thru a DIY creed, played with an intensity that few could match. If ever there was a lifetime achievement award for rock an roll (and I mean REAL achievement, not the sort trotted out by the bogus Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), Freddy would proudly wear that badge and I'd be honored to pin it on his chest! The depth of his catalog is matched only by its variety and an exceedingly high rate of excellence. Now approaching 60, Fred's new band Pierced Arrows carries on that proud tradition in all its ear-splitting glory. Released on Fred's own Tombstone Records, Pierced Arrows "Straight from the Heart" is true to its title and makes a perfect bookend to a 40 years + career along with the Weeds/ Lollipop Shoppe reissue from the German label Music Maniac from last year, but here's hoping there's more where that came from!

"Straight from the Heart" is a biting, terribly personal statement of survival; bloodied but unbowed, Fred's desperate pleading vocals, offset occasionally by his wife Toody's thin haunting voice, anchor this melodic onslaught by a band that would be equally at home playing the Blue Cheer version of "Parchman Farm" or Black Flag's "Depression". It's all there and Mr. Cole's rock solid skills and 40 years of dues, pay off with riveting tunes from the very first feedlack laden power chords till the last note. While with Dead Moon, Cole sang about "running out of time", and he's still running, being chased by "black rainbows", "trapped" and "walking wounded". "So many stumbling blocks that we've come to expect." Fred goes on to sing about friends and dreams lost along the way, still running, chased, desperate, but clinging to life and love. Its his personal odyssey fueled by a six string attack filled with violent slashing guitar that's played as if he really was being chased by black rainbows, one step ahead of fate. Pierced Arrows play as if they were possessed by the spirit of the dead, clawing at the ground begging for a second chance. Their rock and roll resonates with fire (and thunder and high voltage energy) and vision of a seasoned pro who weathered the storm and stands defiant, wielding his axe like an assault rifle and using his words like a knife. Tossing aside Dead Moon's impressive track record in this case only meant getting a different drummer, Kelly Halliburton, and he does a fine job. Their sound didn't really change all that much, maybe just a tad more of a sorta Crazy Horse outlaw rock and roll fuzz trip, but thats just fine for Fred's at the top of his game. This is desperate rock and roll tossed off and spit back at ya with all thats missing from the current multitude of this years wannabees. Yes, Fred Cole is my American Idol and piss on those who continue to shove crap down our throat! With bands like Ottley! and Pierced Arrows around, there is hope for real music by real people and we dont need Sony or Universal to tell us what's good at all, just a cheap stereo and the latest Tombstone release or a trip to see an Ottley or Pierced Arrows show. And for those less fortunate, there's always YouTube! Long may they run!

I guess its no coincidence that I am currently reading the awesome book Bomp:Saving the World One Record At a Time and in particular the amazingingly prescient 30 page Lester Bangs' treatise on the Troggs, "James Taylor Marked For Death" reprinted from a 71 issue of Who Put the Bomp. Its a dead-on assessment of the rock scene, decrying all the pseudo intellectual BS, posturing and fake glamour, in favor of the primitive enjoyment of the rock and roll party! Bangs knew even then all the trappings of the so-callled rock culture just got in the way. "Wild Thing" was always more important than Sgt. Pepper, and bands like Ottley and the Pierced Arrows carry on that tradition in a way that would have made Bangs scream and holler!

Remaining Pierced Arrows Tour Dates

May 7 2008 8:00P
Gruta 77 Madrid

May 8 2008 8:00P
Mardigras La Coruna

May 9 2008 8:00P
Estudio 27 Burgos

May 10 2008 8:00P
Helldorado Vitoria

May 13 2008 8:00P
Menza Pri Koritu Ljubljana

May 14 2008 8:00P
KSET Zagreb

May 16 2008 8:00P
Xylourgeio Thessaloniki

May 17 2008 8:00P
An Club Athens

May 21 2008 8:00P
Muffathalle Fun For Free Munchen

May 22 2008 8:00P
Alpha 60 Schwäbisch-Hall

May 23 2008 8:00P
Eden Bar Ulm

May 25 2008 8:00P
Vera Groningen

Ottley cranks out "Ball and Chain"!